Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Revisiting Auschwitz

One memory lodged forever in my mind and heart is from the summer of 1987. Our only child at the time, our son, was 5 months old.  We, along with other leaders, had taken a group of about 35 college-age young people on a missions trip to eastern Europe.  Their weeks were filled with adapting and understanding new cultures, sharing in churches, street-evangelism and drama. But mainly by removing themselves from the comforts of their soft and cushy American life, their eyes were opened to see a world beyond themselves.  It was life-changing for many.

We visited many sites which brought history alive and colorful to hungry students.  Sadly, one such place was only grey and black.  We entered with much angst and left, utterly somber and heavy in heart.  Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw. As the sun tried to peek out of hovering clouds we made our way through the village of Oswiecim, in southwest Poland, which sits on the border of the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz (German pronunciation of Oswiecim).   This camp was a huge extermination and slave labor complex run by the SS featuring three main camps and 36 sub-camps.  Auschwitz I, the original camp, was established in 1939 to hold Polish political prisoners. By October 1941, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was opened nearby and became the main killing center during the "Final Solution to the Jewish Problem" in which the Nazis attempted to exterminate the entire Jewish population of Europe. An estimated 1.6 million persons were killed at Auschwitz, including 1.3 million Jews and 300,000 Soviet POWs, Polish Catholics and Gypsies. (The History Place )

TODAY, marks the 70th anniversary of the Soviet troops liberating Auschwitz and is also Holocaust Remembrance Day.  In our busy and constantly changing world, this day could go by without a notice, but as I listened to the news and perused sites relating to its history, a scene kept playing through my mind.  We were being led through the barracks and buildings of Auschwitz.  Every ear listening, with a heaviness so noticeable we couldn't help but be silent.  As we entered one desolate and cold building, our son, Andrew, began to whimper and cry.  Before a minute or so passed, he was into a full-fledged wailing.  I knew he felt well, had napped and been fed and changed.  It was so unexplainable and loud, that my husband was forced to leave our group and take Andrew outside where he walked with him for the next hour.   I went on with our group.  

Later, as we rejoined my husband and son, in shock I told him, "The building we were in when Andrew began to scream, they told us was where they housed the young children before they took them away to be gassed."  My husband then shared he had to hold Andrew close to his chest and he had begun to sing praises to God over his little body.  As he sang and prayed, our son began to calm down and gradually fell asleep.  

I have memories of the buildings, the gas chambers, displays of torn clothing, shoes and emaciated human beings, and the horrors of history we witnessed that day.  But the most overriding one was of a little baby reacting to something spiritually that we all find hard to define or explain.  His innocent little spirit picked up on the evil that took root and was played out in the Holocaust in that area of the world, in those buildings and in the hearts of men.  

Photos: Poland National Archives

 We sat in the bus in the shadow of a death camp, and joined together in prayer, song and relying on a a God that is bigger than the evil we witnessed.  We prayed for forgiveness, healing in the hearts of survivors, and that this evil might never be repeated.  We prayed for healing in the land of Poland and in Germany.  We prayed over the Jewish people.  And we praised a God that still loves mankind. 

As difficult it is to imagine, even today with the reports we hear of genocide and terror attacks all over the world, God still loves mankind.  I cannot fathom this when I see horror, but it is true.  GOD STILL LOVES US IN ALL OUR MESS.

I guess my heart today is saying still, "God forgive us for the evil that men give into.  Forgive us for not valuing human life.  Forgive us for not doing anything when we have the power to do something."   The Holocaust is yesterday and should not be forgotten.  Today there's human trafficking on a world-wide scale and there are many organizations and ministries working to rescue the women and children entrapped.  There is genocide in Africa and organizations reaching out to help.  There is still so much we can do to help those who cannot help themselves.  

In remembering Auschwitz and the Holocaust, let's let it lead us to the future....point us to making a difference - Proverbs 24:11 "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter."

A couple of links to check out: 

Not For Sale

A Stay At Home Mom Making A Difference  If a stay at home mom can do this, you can too!

Freedom 61

Maybe a little baby's cry can awaken us.  Bringing awareness to evil and how with God's help and direction, we can make a difference today.  


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